In 1992 the newly independent Republic of Slovenia erased from the register of permanent residence 18,305 inhabitants (1% of the population) that until then had enjoyed full citizenship rights. Prior to secession of Slovenia these persons had been internal immigrants and citizens of former Yugoslavia. After the secession these persons did not became Slovene citizens. The “punishment” for not becoming Slovene citizens followed in the form of the erasure from the register of permanent residents. Thus they were transformed into “illegal” persons and deprived of basic human, social, and political rights. Without being notified the Erased lost their jobs, pensions, health insurances, the right to purchase apartments (in the period of property rights’ transition), and lived in a constant fear of being deported. Many of the Erased were deported or left the country understanding that there was no future for persons with “wrong” ethnic belonging in the newly established “democratic” state. Majority of the Erased persisted in Slovenia being subjugated to everyday humiliations and arbitrariness of the police and other state or local officials.
For ten years, the experiences and suffering of the Erased were shrouded in silence. Gradually the Erased started to self organize, to gain visibility and their struggle led to important victories. The Constitutional Court ruled twice (in 1999 and 2003) that the act of the erasure was unconstitutional and that rights should be restored retroactively. Instead of complying with the Constitutional Court decision Slovene political cast and especially right wing parties (which are still in power) started to mobilize the Slovene population against the Erased using xenophobic and racist discourses.
The act of the erasure still has not been acknowledged by the government: the Erased received no public apology and no compensations. Some of the Erased are still without any legal status in the country (or abroad and cannot return to Slovenia) and most of them hava a “void” in their administrative personal residence history. It means that the Constitutional Court decision still has not been implemented. Various international bodies (UN Committees, European Human Rights Commissioner, Amnesty International and Council of Europe) demand that the Slovene state fix the situation of Erased persons.
Despite its peculiarity, we, the Erased and supporters, believe that the issue of erasure is a truly European question. There are many commonalities in the struggle of the Erased and the European struggles for the transformation of citizenship concept, opposition to immigration controls and precarious conditions of labor.
In 2006 a collective lawsuit was filed with the European Court of Human Rights. This suit is based on the case of 11 persons who are still without any legal status in Slovenia and consequently barely able to get by. To politically and publicly support this collective lawsuit with the European Court we organized the Caravan of the Erased in November 2006. 46 people, the Erased and their supporters, traveled by bus via Trieste and Monfalcone (Italy), and Paris to reach the European Parliament in Brussels on November 29, 2006.
The caravan was invited to:
Italian Regional Parliament of the Friuli Venezia Giulia in Trieste;
Public meeting with the Italian Trade Union FIOM in Monfalcone;
French Parliament: press conference organized by the left wing MPs and Sans Papiers movement;
Public meeting with Sans Papiers activists and the Group of lawyers GISTI;
European Parliament: press conference (organized by the Group of the European United Left and Nordic Green Left - GUE/NGL), meeting with the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), and Franco Frattini, the European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security.
The Caravan of the Erased is seen as the peak of the political journeys within the movement for the rights of the Erased and struggle for democratic citizenship in Europe. The 4 day journey of 47 people (also persons without papers) have opened the doors of the important European institutions. We have gained visibility and support and now feel empowered to start a (citizenships) revolution in Europe, however, the broadening of our struggle and networking with other groups are urgently needed.
We see ourselves as a part of the wider struggle of a re-invention of the citizenship in Europe. We demand immediate and unconditional regularization for all immigrants and closure of all detention centers. A residence permit and a right to citizenship should become basic democratic norms!